Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Where is the Freedom of the Press?

You should already be aware of this, this, and this.

Answer this question:-

"What is the role of a free press in a democratic society?"

I haven't heard that one in a long time. Perhaps someone should pose it to Hugh Orde, soon to be head of the Association of Chief Constables. Clearly he was the right choice to head our shiny new police force that looks increasingly like the old RUC. The fact that it was the RUC until it changed its name, but not its membership, should make this easy to understand.

I'm reliably informed that the members of this putrid old vintage in new, but only slightly different, bottles have all had human rights training. I wonder if they sat an exam at the end of the course.

"In six hundred words define the relationship between freedom of speech and public accountability. Illustrate with examples from Eastern Europe."

Interestingly enough, East Germany's "Volkspolizei" wore green tunics and white shirts remarkably like those of the RU.......errrr.....PSNI. They also had a habit of arresting and prosecuting those who criticised public figures or asked awkward questions. Such prosecutees had defense counsel and were able to argue their case in court. So no human rights issues there. After all the police are obliged to investigate, caution, arrest and prosecute those who make a nuisance of themselves, looking into wrongdoing in high (and low) places, questioning the integrity of those fine Party Members who work so hard for the public good. Comrades Brown, Smith, Harman etc would never line their pockets at public expense. Indeed, we will send the Stasi to raid the offices of a member of the People's Assembly in order to make the point that no-one whose loyalty we doubt can ever feel safe. Journalists must do their duty and reveal their sources so that these subversive elements can be rooted out and put on trial.

The UK looks increasingly like East Germany without public housing or free education. It's a vast panopticon where privacy is seen as a threat to the social order. Protest is criminalised. It's "harassment" to criticise corporate interests who even have lawyers on the payroll who specialise in the use of this law to stifle dissent. Police assault the public at will in the full knowledge that CCTV footage will become "unavailable". Dissent is driven underground and protest groupings riddled with informers and agent provocateurs. Special operations are launched, arresting hundreds (contrast the Holyland) who were "planning to attack the power supply". Bogey men are invented readily and appear everywhere, thereby justifying the end of privacy. Phones are tapped. Houses are bugged. Emails are monitored. The DNA profiles of millions are kept on file. And all of this to protect our freedom, just like in the German Democratic Republic.

Hugh Orde has shown his true colours. He has no interest in democracy or accountability or freedom of speech. He's the perfect choice to head the Association of Chief Constables. Interestingly enough, Ronnie Flanagan, another RUC Chief Constable, became Chief inspector of Constabulary for the UK. This is a man on whose watch police ran death squads, murdered solicitors and ran a network of informers so extensive that "every tree has its Special Branch". That network has not gone away. In fact it is constantly renewed with the usual suspects; drug dealers, thugs etc who have a license to do whatever they want. Communities live in fear and, bizarrely, are expected to look to the police to protect them from their own employees. Ronnie's swansong as a public servant was to oversee the murder of a Brazilian on a subway train by a police death squad. The jury at the inquest were not allowed to return a verdict of "Unlawful Killing".

Under the Terrorism Act police evidence is heard in closed court. Neither the defendant nor their counsel are allowed to know the nature of the case against them. They are therefore unable to mount a defense against it. This is more draconian than the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It makes a mockery of Justice and Accountability and Freedom of the Press. A journalist is not allowed to protect their sources. Whistleblowers are not protected. In the UK there is no right to silence. The arrest caution is deliberately worded to undermine the presumption of innocence. Suzanne Breen faces a potential five years in jail. So does any investigative journalist. Why? Because the definition of terrorism has been expanded to cover any activity that challenges institutional power.

The elevation of Hugh Orde and Ronnie Flanagan to high office reveals a chilling truth. Northern Ireland is a training ground for tyranny.

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